We remember lost heroes of New Orleans music, beginning with Art Neville, founding member of The Meters and the Neville Brothers, who passed away at age 81 on July 22, 2019. We pay tribute to Art by revisiting our interviews with him and his brothers over the years, as the Nevilles tell stories of family life and their adventures in and beyond the city where they learned their craft. Then, we remember the late Fats Domino with our favorite of the New Orleans piano man’s Imperial releases. And we hear the Fat Man’s reflective side in a rare 2007 conversation with him about escaping Hurricane Katrina’s flood waters and how his faith saw him through. Veteran blues harp player Billy “Boy” Arnold tells of South Side Chicago’s early rhythm & blues scene, recording with Bo Diddley, and his view of Fats Domino’s role in pushing black music across the color line.
We travel from Mississippi juke joints to the streets of the French Quarter to hear from those who record and perform music. Folklorist Bill Ferris recounts his experience documenting blues, gospel, fife & drum music and folk arts in the Mississippi delta and hill country. Ferris recently compiled his recordings in the Voices of Mississippi boxed set. Then, New Orleans’ queen of the clarinet Doreen Ketchens serenades us from her post at Royal and St. Peters Street. Doreen tells how the clarinet brought her from the family’s sweet shop in Treme to a global stage. Plus, hot takes from Hot Tuna, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Lavern Baker and Marvin Gaye.
From Great Britain to the Big Easy, we explore the sounds of musical and social breakouts. First, we hear how British blues pioneer John Mayall broke out of England with his band the Bluesbreakers, bringing British blues to a larger audience. We’ll hear some of Mayall’s sources and contemporaries, like Big Maceo and Eric Clapton. Then, it’s butt shakes and backbeats with Big Freedia, the Queen Diva of New Orleans Bounce, a rhythmic dance music with sources in hip hop and rap, as well as much earlier jazz and R&B. We’ll explore some of those sources, and strut with Kermit Ruffins and Sam Morgan, head “Down Yonder” with Smiley Lewis, and “Take it to the Street” with Rebirth Brass Band.
Photo credit: David Gomez
It’s a two-hour walk through streets of the city as we dive into two great eras of New Orleans music. First, it’s the 1940s and 50s R&B hit factory with studio man Cosimo Matassa, producer, arranger, trumpet player Dave Bartholomew who passed away recently, drummer Earl Palmer and more. We also chat with The>Meters—Art Neville, George Porter, Leo Nocentelli and Zigaboo Modeliste—and we get to the bottom of the bottom, find out what’s in the pocket and get a definition of funk from the four men who continue to dish it out.
This Independence Day weekend, we celebrate the cultural minglings in New Orleans, the city whose unparalleled diversity gave birth to some of the most revolutionary sounds in American music. We visit New Orleans’ French Quarter Festival: a free, homegrown, four-day annual event featuring a vast array of local music presented on stages throughout the city’s oldest neighborhood. We’ll hear from Soul Queen Irma Thomas, piano patriarch Ellis Marsalis, and the Preservation Hall Brass Band. We’ll also catch the French-Creole jazz of Don Vappie and Evan Christopher, Cajun dance music from Bruce Daigrepont, vaudeville and gospel from Topsy Chapman and Solid Harmony, Klezmer-funk fusion from the New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars and traditional jazz from Dejan’s Olympia Brass Band. Join the festivities with this holiday display of musical fireworks.